When Doctors Are Unable to Provide Proper Care to Undocumented Immigrants, the Patients Are Not the Only Ones Who Suffer
26 July 2018
Doctors, nurses and medical students march to the Tornillo Port of Entry on June 23, 2018 in Tornillo, Texas, to demand an end to separation of immigrant children from their parents. - The Trump administration's erecting of a tent city to house minors separated from their parents has drawn sharp criticism, and is still under fire, despite President Trump's executive order to stop family separation. (Photo by Paul RATJE / AFP)
American medical care is currently in shambles. Compounding the difficulties surrounding our fractured system is the issue of how immigrants receive appropriate healthcare.
Another cause of doctor burnout: Being forced to give immigrants unequal care. https://t.co/5A6bn1IZPb— NBC News (@NBC News)1527870244.0
<p><a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-care/another-cause-doctor-burnout-being-forced-give-immigrants-unequal-care-n878856"><span style="font-weight: 400;">An article released by NBC News</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> details the story of </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Dr. Lilia Cervantes, a physician who treated an undocumented patient who didn’t have government insurance and, as a result, received inadequate medical care to treat her kidney disease. Over the course of three years, the mother-of-three visited the emergency room multiple times for kidney failure. During that time, the patient has flatlined more than once and eventually decided to stop further treatments, due to the stress on her body and the emotional toll on her children.</span></p><p><div id="action_button_container"></div></p><p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Often, emergency medical services are the only option for undocumented individuals. Emergency kidney treatments, such as dialysis, have a hugely negative impact on the human body. The risk of death for someone only receiving emergency medical care for kidney disease is 14 times higher than someone who has access to consistent and stable treatment. Medical professionals who treat these patients are often unable to provide the medically-warranted standard of care. They are often required to deny care to visibly ill patients whose condition is not deemed serious enough to require emergency medical care. It’s emergency care or nothing.</span></p><p><div data-conversation-spotlight=""></div></p><p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The patient's death had a significant impact on Cervantes, an internal medicine specialist and a professor of medicine at University of Colorado in Denver. Cervantes decided to research trends in the overuse of emergency medicine, especially by undocumented individuals. </span></p><p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The results were shocking, if not unsurprising. Her research demonstrated that physician burnout and poor morale are expected outcomes for physicians who are required to provide substandard care to immigrants — individuals whose undocumented status is the primary barrier to receiving help. Many of these individuals are unable to afford private health insurance and are barred from accessing Medicaid or Medicare.</span></p><p><a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/basics/burnout"><span style="font-weight: 400;">Burnout occurs</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> when an individual loses control of how they carry out their job, spends time working towards goals that do not resonate with personal values, and when they receive little to no professional and social support.</span></p><p><a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/05/21/613115383/another-cause-of-doctor-burnout-being-forced-to-give-immigrants-unequal-care"><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to Cervantes</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, “clinicians are physically and emotionally exhausted from this type of care.“You may get to know a patient and their family really well. Then the following week, you might be doing CPR on this same patient because they maybe didn’t come in soon enough. I’ve known people that have transitioned to different parts of the hospital because this is difficult.”</span></p><p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to Melissa Anderson, a medical professional who was not involved in Cervantes’ story, agrees with findings. “I practically had to take a class in immigration to understand what’s going on,” she said. “Physicians just don’t understand it, and we shouldn’t have to.”</span></p><p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In an effort to provide better care to undocumented individuals, as well as reduce doctor burnout, several states have taken small steps to address this immigration and healthcare nightmare.</span></p><p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“Several states, like Arizona, New York and Washington, have modified their emergency Medicaid programs to include standard dialysis for undocumented immigrants. Ideally, we could come up with federal language and make this the national treatment strategy for undocumented immigrants,” said Cervantes.</span></p><p></p><p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Ultimately, the goal of many physicians like Cervantes is to provide better accept to consistent medical care on a federal level so that undocumented individuals can receive the same standard of care as anyone else. Of course, given our current political climate and the Trump administration's stance on immigration, only time will tell if sufficient improvements can be made.</span></p><p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Even beyond providing inadequate healthcare to undocumented individuals, doctors in general are experiencing burnout at a precipitous rate. A recent study shows that </span><a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/we-need-to-talk-more-about-physician-burnout/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">at least a third of physicians are at risk for burnout</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p><p><a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/05/the-burnout-crisis-in-health-care/559880/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to Rena Xu</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, a healthcare professional, an inability to treat a patient to the best of her ability compromises her sense of morale. “I felt deflated. For hours, my attention had been consumed by challenges of coordination rather than actual patient care. And still the patient was at risk of experiencing delays for both of the things she needed.”</span></p>
Keep reading... Show less